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Uveitis and Immunology

Uveitis refers to inflammation of a layer in the eye called the uvea, which consists of vascular structures such as the iris, ciliary body and choroid. The uvea lies between the outer, white part of the eye called the sclera, and the retina. Uveitis is the third leading cause of blindness in developed countries and is the cause of 10-20% of blindness in the United States. Common causes include autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, sarcoidosis and certain types of infections. Depending on the type of uveitis, however, many patients may not have an underlying cause for their uveitis.

Types of Uveitis

  • Anterior uveitis (iritis) is the most common type of uveitis and affects the front of the eye. Acute anterior uveitis often starts with symptoms of light sensitivity and redness and may last six to eight weeks. Chronic anterior uveitis may last years and can relapse. 
  • Intermediate uveitis (pars planitis) describes inflammation of the intermediate or mid- section of the eye. This inflammation can be chronic and persistent and can last weeks to years.
  • Posterior uveitis (chorioretinitis) affects the back of the eye and can develop rapidly or slowly over time. This can last for years.
  • Panuveitis occurs when the anterior, intermediate, and posterior sections of the eye all have inflammation.

Our uveitis specialist performs a comprehensive evaluation to accurately diagnose the type of uveitis. This requires a thorough history and questionnaire as well as complete examination with special testing. In addition blood tests, x-rays, skin tests, and biopsies may be required to determine the etiology of the inflammation.

Treatment may include topical anti-inflammatory and dilating eye drops to decrease inflammation, or more complex therapy with oral medications, injections, or intravenous medications.